A Hopefully Cynical Desert

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything but a short story on my small slice of the internet here. I think I was too hung up on the views I once had and the way I once spoke. I don’t know if I can write about these things with the hopeful elegance I once used. Maybe I’m not supposed to. I’m trying to be more honest with people, but it makes it difficult to tell if that honesty is holding me in places I wish to walk away from or if it’s doing what I intended – giving me the strength to be who I think I am (who I want to be) instead being caged inside the person I’ve shown them all.

A long time ago I wrote about life and the passing years in a bleak way. I said that we all live with our backs to a wall that’s steadily moving toward the edge of a cliff. When we’re kids that cliff is nothing but rumor and the kind of fairy tales meant to scare us. We can’t see it after all, but time passes and eventually, there it is. Once you see it, it only seems to be rushing at you. So many people live their lives pushing against that wall until, inevitably, it pushes them over the edge.

I went on to write how it was best to grab everything we can – everything from the wreckage of all the things we have built and lost – to fashion a pair of wings. That way, when the long drop was there staring us in the face, we could leap off the edge in the hopes that all our hard work would produce flight.

What a beautiful picture it painted.

Anyway, it made the years against that wall bearable. 

Years later, when I thought I forgot about this wall and all it represented to me, I found myself drawn back to it. Here, I had come to the edge of the cliff, my toes hanging off the edge of the abyss.

I’d fashioned my wings.
I jumped.
They worked.

But, before I could reach the land on the other side of the cliff the wall shot up in front of me.

I crashed.
I fell.
Life has a dark sense of humor sometimes.

The sun couldn’t reach the bottom. The ground was nothing but bones and the hollowed eyes of those who have fallen. It was a grave of lost lives and lost dreams. A place of regrets. The wind made the howling cries of anguish those trapped were too weak to make themselves. Like me. Some huddled inward, resigned to live the rest of their lives there in the graveyard. There were many who tried to shape the bones into ladders or mountains but a foundation made of such things is too brittle and rotted to help us reach the sun again.

All I could do was look at it all happening around me – apart of it and removed from it. I feel like I’ve spent so much of my life in that precarious place.

I’m afraid to be writing something so dark. Especially when these are things I don’t really have answers for yet.  But like my character Jake (How fitting that I just posted his story) I can’t help but exist in this hopefully cynical place.

At the bottom of that pit, I found necessity. I don’t mean to say that pain is necessary to life, only that it’s a catalyst to our learning. There are so many people in the world who believe that their strength and their individuality lies in the scars on their hearts. It’s not our pain that defines us. It’s what we do because of it – with it – despite it.

No sooner than I realized this, a stairwell opened up in the wall, and up I climbed to the land I once thought I could so effortlessly fly to.

That brings us to here- the present day- years and years after I forgot about the wall and the cliff and all that dwells at the bottom.

I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t this. I find before me a pathless desert. I wish I could say it was at least like the Sahara where the glorious sand dunes alone would make the site worthwhile, but what’s before me is flat and endless. Miles and miles stretch out. There’s no place I can’t go and yet nowhere to go. I wander numb, and knowing how pointless it all is.

I know that if I keep going long enough eventually there will be something to break the horizon – something to hold onto. But, inevitably, I turn around and walk back until my toes hand over the edge of that cliff again. Somehow, it’s easier to accept the howling cries coming up from that cool dark then to travel the silence of uncertainty alone.

I sometimes teeter on the edge, hoping that a strong wind will push me from behind because I’m too afraid to jump myself- no – too proud to be the cause of my giving up.

When the wind doesn’t come, I look up at the wall on the other side but it’s a solid, towering monument promising as it always did that there is no going back in this place.

Because the wind won’t push me over—
Because I know I must—

I turn back around to try my luck in the desert again where there’s nothing to guide me but the hazy shimmer of the desired future. I can’t even be sure whether or not it’s a mirage. It must be because no matter how much I walk it only gets further and further away.

Actually, there was a meditation I once had where I was dropped in the middle of a desert. There was an oasis in the distance but no matter how long I walked it got no closer. I figured it was a mirage, but because I am (was?) the hopeful sort, I figured this couldn’t be the message I was to be getting. When I concluded that it wasn’t the oasis that was the illusion but the desert, the sand fell away and I found that I was standing in the cool clear waters – in the shade of the palm trees.

Still, it’s hard to see the desert as an illusion when every pore of your body has you convinced that you’re dying of thirst.

But maybe this memory is the silver thread of hope in all this.

It helps writing it all down. It’s kind of like staking a red flag in the sand to make a mid point of sorts where I can make a camp and rest for a time. At the very least, it can act as a place to return too that’s not the pit.

Maybe I can build on it, too.

Who knows; there might be others in the desert who will see it and they too can build a camp and rest for a while because all of us who have made it from the pit knows that no matter how comforting that cold dark place can be, we must keep moving forward. Even as the sand shifts under our feet. Even as the sun burns our backs.

Because it’s not our pain that makes us who we are.
It’s what we do with it.
Because of it.
Despite it.


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